...and when Durante did
send the kid the winnings, did you notice how quickly mom snatched it out of his hands and stuffed it in her purse? Once you look past The Schnoz and his usual attention-getting antics, the main character of this film turns out to be Mayme (Maw) Palooka (Marjorie Rambeau) from start to finish, and the story is the familiar caricature of the American family, with the men portrayed as ineffectual or unreliable strutting peacocks, while mom is the one who runs things and actually holds the family together. I Love Lucy
used a similar formula (Ricky Ricardo having been the quintessential strutting peacock) but, where Lucy played it strictly for comedy, this film plays it more for drama, which makes it more a commentary on American family life than a caricature of it.
Though this film was classified as a comedy both on its http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0025619/"
rel="nofollow">IMDb page and by the uploader, it impresses me as being a comedy-drama, with some comedic moments, but mostly serious content. Marjorie Rambeau certainly plays her part straight, as do the rest of the cast, and even Durante's role as the crooked boxing manager is mostly a serious one, even though he does his shtick throughout (much of which was clearly wedged forcibly into the story). Marjorie's portrait of a single mom who doesn't really want her "baby" to grow up, and never teaches him the essentials of life (like how to distinguish between genuine folk and the phony gold diggers and conniving users) hits particularly close to home. I'm afraid I didn't find very much to laugh at.
All this is not to say that I thought the film to be poor quality (just not much of a comedy). It was well written, and tells its story loud and clear: a young man is allowed to learn the hard way that "mother knows best," because no one ever bothered to teach him how to know for himself. The cast are terrific, and turn in a fine performance. And yeah, Billie Cagney is the spittin' image of his brother, right down to the haircut.